TEPID TAKE: Wheeler's Record Reminds Winnipeg Fans They Were Once Thrashers

Photo via Winnipeg Free Press

It took seven years, but finally a player who actually played for the Winnipeg Jets now hold the franchise record for points, as Blake Wheeler surpassed Ilya Kovalchuk’s record of 615 points. Wheeler took 81 more games to do it, but he did have some carryover from when he played for the Atlanta Thrashers before they moved.

Now, more than ever, we need Kovalchuk on the Jets to battle it out with Wheeler for points. At least Kovalchuk still leads the all-time goals for the team by 111 goals over Bryan Little, as well as most goals in a season with 52– twice.

The interesting thing is how much the Jets are celebrating it now, even though the Thrashers history is not really promoted; mostly due to the Atlanta Spirit LLC. still holding the rights to the name and all the iconography with it. Plus, I don’t think the Thrashers name or history– outside of the rookies they were able to produce– is much to crow about. The Devils don’t tout the Rockies or Scouts all that much and there’s no reason they should have either.

But the Jets Centric Podcast had an interesting thread they put up on Sunday (FOUND RIGHT HERE) that’s really telling of where people in Winnipeg really stand when it comes to the Atlanta history. And if memory serves, I don’t think there was a big countdown for when Wheeler was to break Kovalchuk’s mark– but I’m sure I’m wrong in that.

With the lack of ties to Atlanta in Winnipeg, it’s easy to forget where they came from. When you go up to Winnipeg, there’s not much of a trace of the Thrashers history in the MTS Centre that I’ve seen at all. You’d think they’d want to be happy a team in the south fell or else they’d still be lobbying for an expansion team when other US markets are getting it.

Jets fans started their erasing of the Thrashers at the 2011 Draft when they were yelling down at people wearing Thrashers jersey, whether ironically or not, and just being jackasses to anyone and everyone. I get the hype behind getting a team back, but to do it in the face of people who just lost a team– not cool. They sure forget about how they felt when the actual Jets moved to Phoenix real quick when it comes to that.

In any case, the Jets are now seven wins away from tying the Thrashers win mark and I hope Bob Hartley and Curt Fraser are there to help usher the passing of the win torch to Paul Maurice.

Hall and 'Yotes

NEWARK, NJ – DECEMBER 06: New Jersey Devils left wing Taylor Hall (9) during the second period of the National Hockey League game between the New Jersey Devils nd the Chicago Blackhawks on December 6, 2019 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

We all knew Taylor Hall was going to be traded this year, we didn’t know it’d be to Arizona of all places. Not only that, but the Devils didn’t get too much to help them in the short-term and some people thinking Ray Shero got a little fleeced in this one.

But in all honesty, the match could be a great fit overall. The Coyotes needed someone like Hall in their line-up to be an offense creator. The Coyotes are 24th in the NHL in goals-for and while their power-play is in the top-10, you can’t go wrong getting a former MVP onto the roster. More over, this is a move that could help spark Phil Kessel’s output, which has been lacking a little due to no playmakers being up to the Kessel caliber of play. The Coyotes are surprising enough this season being third in the west and getting solid performances from Darcy Kuemper in net and Conor Garland being their offensive dynamo; but adding Hall just ups the value of this team– especially at this point in the season where there’s still time for Hall to adjust to Rick Tocchet’s style in Arizona.

Yet, looking at the Devils…this was not a great deal. You know they had to move Hall to get something for the future; but you’d also like to get something for today, too. Not many people think the return will be much of anything outside of the draft picks, but you never know how the picks and players will turn out. This move really doesn’t address the bigger issue of the Devils, which is their goaltending. Sure, MacKenzie Blackwood has been better than some of the options the Devils have, but that doesn’t say much overall.

This does, however, open the way for the younger Devils to really show their muster. Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes are now the face of the team more than ever, while the older crew up front in Wayne Simmonds, Kyle Palmieri, and Blake Coleman are going to have to be offensive mentors to these talented players. But wouldn’t you have liked to have Hall be with these former top picks and guide them through the peaks and valleys through his first-hand experiences??

There will be instant results in Arizona because they have a known commodity in Taylor Hall; they got a piece that could be the big thing missing not only for their team, but for their other acquired star player, and they are making a push to be a desirable spot outside of the climate to be. For New Jersey– it’ll take some years, if it ever happens for them when it comes to the results of this deal. But they’ll always have that one year, they’ll always have 2017-18.

San Jose Ex-Coaching Staff Jumped By the Sharks

Doug Wilson burned pretty much the entire coaching staff by firing head coach Pete DeBoer, assistant coaches Steve Spott, Dave Barr, and Johan Hedberg; but kept Bob Boughner– who was named interim coach. Fans who have been vocal about DeBoer get their scapegoat wish, while Wilson will see what kind of fire this lights under this very under performing team.

DeBoer was a defensive minded coach, but with Martin Jones and Aaron Dell being tire fires in net and according to some advanced stats– the worst (Dell) and third worst (Jones) goalies in the entire league, it didn’t help DeBoer’s cause. The defense itself is a great as helping scoring, but helping prevent it is another thing, as they’ve let in the second most goals in the league at the time of this writing. Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson aren’t lighting the world on fire, though the latter has been better as the season’s gone on. Then on offense– there’s Logan Couture, Evander Kane, and allegedly Joe Thornton is still play– though I’ve only seen a husk of what used to be Thornton on the ice picking fights with goalies and former Stanley Cup champions.

Is Pete DeBoer a bad coach?? I’m sure it’s as subjective as it seems. He went to the Stanley Cup twice, but has missed the playoffs in six of his 11 coaching seasons in the NHL. Some will say he’s a good asset, others will damn his name. After the initial blast of spirited enthusiasm, he seems like a guy who has a voice that would run it’s course very quickly, especially in a room of veteran players. You know things are bad when this is the first time Doug Wilson has fired a coach mid-season in his eternal tenure as Sharks GM.

Will Bob Boughner be the savior of the season?? Probably not. In fact, he’s picking up in a situation that he left off at in Florida– shotty goaltending and defense that leaves a lot to be desired in their own zone. Could he just be a lame duck for the short-term?? Maybe, but this could be a second-wind for him and maybe with talent around him, the team could actually start living up to potential.

Which they better do because there’s not many trades to be made to make this team better due to the tight salary cap they have and lack of anything on the horizon from the AHL to help them out. But with a voice change, could mean a style change and the offense actually taking off and the players who feel like they’ve held back finally breaking through.

It remains to be seen how this will play out, because it’s an audition for Boughner, who could be out the door by the end of the year because he couldn’t get this team going– but it also marks the fifth coach who has been fired this year. Granted, three were because of them being idiots and messing with their players or putting the team’s good name in a bad spot, but the media made sure to let you know this DeBoer firing was purely hockey related, no off-ice stuff, no abuse– just not getting the job done.

TEPID TAKE: Idiot Coaches

Let’s start off by saying Mike Babcock and Bill Peters are scum as people. When you’re a head coach at any level, you’re job is to teach and nurture players to get better. While a little “tough love” may be needed, the psychological damage and utter disregard for players as humans is something that shouldn’t be tolerated under any guise.

As always, though, you’ll have people either try to defend them or say they didn’t see or hear anything like that when they were around them. I won’t call them enablers because there’s an off chance that they weren’t focused on anything aside from their goal.

That all said, though– let’s look deeper into the whole situation because there’s a lot of former players coming out and saying that players would go to the GM regularly to have said coach fired or their concerns were brought up to no change being made. This is where things get the murkiest for the higher ups for not doing their leg work on this. Carlo Colaiacovo said that some players from the Red Wings went to Ken Holland with concerns of Babcock only to be shuttered out. No word of if the Edmonton media has pressured Holland about this claim. Not only that, but then Carolina GM Ron Francis was made aware of the physical altercations between Peters and players. The result was a contract extension. Francis hasn’t made public comment yet, as he is currently at the helm of the Seattle franchise.

This is not to say that players should be in charge of who they want to coach, but if they’re coming to management with solid evidence of what’s going wrong and management doesn’t bat an eye to the situation– that’s just shitty management and shitty people in those management roles.

Both Babcock and Peters held significant roles with Hockey Canada, as well– Babcock coaching multiple Olympic teams, World Juniors, and World Championships, while Peters was a U18 Championships coach, a World Championship coach, and assistant for the World Cup of Hockey. Whether or not Hockey Canada will look into their dealing deeper, who knows if the short time those teams were together if anything happened or if because it’s a such a tight ship with people looking over the shoulder all the time, these guys actually had to act professional in that time span.

The era of recycling coaches will hopefully come in an end because of this, regardless of what “brilliance” may be provided. The recycling should have never happened either. There’s plenty of good coaches out there, but teams are too lazy to actually scout them or give them the chance in the “win now” mentality that is brought to them by ownership; so they go with the easy fix or a known commodity– due diligence be damned. With all of this coming to the surface– you can bet that the process of selecting a coach will be thorough as hell now, as it should have been already.

As far as these two are concerned, I could see Peters being without a job indefinitely…but it’s a harder sell for me on Babcock. Regardless of the mental trauma he put on players, Mike Keenan still got work well past his due date. That’s something that will always tell me to never say never when it comes to coaches being disgraced out of the business. Honestly, Babcock could land a job sooner rather than later because hockey is stupid and lazy like that.

Maybe Pause the Stadium Series…and Not Just Because of the Jerseys

Look– I’m all for bullshit cash-grabs and if I could find a way to make it happen in my life more– I would. On an unrelated note, I have a Patreon. But the Stadium Series and most of the outdoor games are getting too much for too little a payoff and too much ridicule for the optics.

Essentially, the NHL has made the Stadium Series game their version of MLB’s Turn-Ahead-The-Clock and it’s embarassing. A week or so ago, the Avalanche’s jerseys leaked and last night– Icethetics got the Kings uniform design. And boy…are they terrible.

But much more than the horrific jerseys, the legs on outdoor games seemed to have tapered off. Outside of the place hosting the event, the luster around the league’s fanbases have been dampened from the boom of the mid-10s of all the outdoor games possible. While I do enjoy the Winter Classic game, I’m still in the camp that the All-Star Game should be the outdoor game, as it would rotate a lot more and more areas would want to bid for it since they wouldn’t need an updated arena, while also having all the stars of the league being able to be out on the ice in the shiny game they talk about in interviews leading up to the event.

Plus, we all know that the NHL is the one who sets these prices, they set the venues, and rather than pull from two fan bases, you’d think they’d want to pull from more for a special event and make it even more special for the fans who come from far and wide to enjoy the All-Star Weekend. The idea of a game like this being for points has always been odd given the sometimes less than ideal situations Mother Nature brings to the game, but in the ASG; that’s not an issue at all.

The fact that we have three outdoor games this year is amazing– especially considering I didn’t hear much about the game in Regina, the Winter Classic has some buzz to it, but we’ll have to see how it goes as we get closer to New Year’s Day; while this game has had some fanfare with the game being held properly inside Air Force Academy, but who knows how much people will care once game day shows up.

Wu-Tang said it best when they said, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me, CREAM get the money; dolla, dolla bills y’all.” It’s a statement that I’m sure the NHL executives use as a mantra when planning out these games and locations, but there’s time where you have to step back, realize the golden goose may need some retooling and time to rejuvenate itself, and go back to the drawing board with this whole idea.

That said, the jersey market will be booming in 20 years– much like the Kings’ “Burger King” jersey, the Ducks’ “Wild Wing” jersey, and the Islanders’ “Fisherman” jersey— when people want this tackiness back en vogue.

Hockey Podcasting Was a Mistake

Now, it’s not about my career in podcasting– we don’t have the time and I’m already paying a guy to help me work through that.

No, it’s about the new Don Cherry podcast that’s going to be happening soon after the 85-year-old was booted off of the Sportsnet airwaves due to another crazy rant too far from the former Jack Adams Award winner. I won’t rehash that because what can be said about it that hasn’t been shouted back and forth into the void that is called the Internet??

Yet, Don Cherry starting a podcast just shows that allowing anyone to have a podcast was a mistake. You can say that for several podcasts about anything that has already been made, but now it’s being used as a redemption tour or a “I’m still relevant” thing for those who are well past their time.

But it goes back to my whole thing about the NBC podcast situation where they started podcast well past the time they should have for the contract with the NHL they had; we’ve heard the same bit from Don Cherry for decade– Canada’s great, foreigners are suspect, mangling last names. People have always had the ability to tune out when on TV, but now they can really tune out…unless they want to be the dog whistle for others and give this show more publicity than it should get– but that’s their own lane.

Anyway– it’s something that’s a mistake because we’ve heard it all before. Cherry has at least two books about it, a four-part CBC biography, and years and years of stuff on backlog that never really deviates from his usual gimmick. Knowing the history behind him, I doubt there will be any new listenership than what would have already listened already.

I guess it’s a good idea to keep Don Cherry alive because who knows what he would have done if no one paid attention to him after this incident. There has been studies that the grief of someone or something being taken from you can take its toll on the mind and body– which is sometimes a death sentence for those in an older age bracket due to their body not being as strong as younger people. If this is something that’ll bide his time; great. Like I said– people who want to listen and those who won’t, won’t. Simple as that.

Then after all is said and done, we’ll have to see what legacy people will paint him with– though they’ve already done that for a while as he still breathes.

Kovalchuk’s NHL Return Finally Halted

For Ilya Kovalchuk, his return to the NHL from the KHL was less like Jaromir Jagr and more like Nikolai Zherdev. This is due to the report out that the LA Kings will bench Kovalchuk indefinitely, as the 36-year-old winger is working on yet another underwhelming season after returning from the KHL.

Shockingly enough, the Kings sit last in the League in points with the fewest wins.

I think there were a lot of people who were treading lightly when it came to Kovalchuk’s intentions of coming back to the NHL after five-and-a-half season in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg. However, his output in the KHL with 138 goals and 327 points in 298 games in the KHL made people think that he could come back to the NHL guns ablazing– especially after having two 30-goal seasons prior to signing the three-year deal with the Kings.

Shockingly enough, the oldest team in the league couldn’t get the success that Kovalchuk had in Russia to translate to their roster in a year…and now into year two, the same old stuff. Hell, after Kovalchuk got snippy when his lack of production of himself and the team made him a healthy scratch late last year.

God only know what he’ll say after this one.

The Kings, in and of themselves, are a mess. They only bright light may be seeing Drew Doughty body people and his little petty feud with the Tkachuks– mainly Matthew in Calgary. All around, they are a mess– 28th in goals-per-game, worst in goals-allowed, 29th on the power play, 30th on the PK; but at least they have the most shots on goal in the league…so that’s something. That said, they’ll make any back-up look like Martin Brodeur on any given night.

The Kovalchuk signing was an ill-advised one, especially since Kovalchuk had never played in the Western Conference, which many would agree is a much different animal than the East in terms of style of play and travel. But when a shiny toy with potential becomes available, you can’t blame them for trying. You can blame them for the three-year contract with a no-movement clause, which is also a 35+ contract…but we shouldn’t point the finger at anyone directly whatsoever, right??

Lazy Toronto Sports Media’s New Leafs Narrative

On a cold November night, a lone person is seen walking into a graveyard in Southern Ontario. Under one arm, Geiger counter; under the other, a Ouija board. They stop at a grave site and lay the board down, setting the Geiger on the headstone. When they get a reading from the counter, they ask; “As a former champion, what do you think the Maple Leafs need to win the Stanley Cup??”

I would not be surprised if one of the Toronto media scribes goes this route on their parade of asking that question to former Cup champions. It happened with Alex Ovechkin, it happened with Drew Doughty, it’s happened with Eddie Shack and odds are it’ll happen to anyone who’s name has been etched on the silver trophy. My biggest surprise is that Doughty didn’t rebuke what he said despite the fact there was a recording of him– but that’s another piece for another time.

The fact that the narrative now when it comes to the Leafs is asking former champions what needs to be done and mimic them rather than actually addressing the problems on their own is a bit odd. As my co-host Jonny P said this week, at this point just plan the parade now and maybe they’ll luck out and win the thing. What works for one team or one player doesn’t necessarily work for the rest of the NHL, especially not the Leafs who have plenty of dynamic players who may or may not be gelling as much as people had hoped or thought.

Let’s not forget the idea of people already are calling for a “Come to Jesus” kind of talk to happen with Auston Matthews. There’s always a constant panic in Leafs land when this team who was supposed to be destined for greatness (in their minds) isn’t taking the league by storm and steamrolling over everyone. They see the shiny things that are up front, but completely disregard their lack of defense– even with Tyson Barrie back there– and then have to wonder what the problem is when they haven’t won the Presidents Trophy by late-January.

But if you fire Mike Babcock, that’ll fix everything and make things better…except it won’t. Would it help a little?? Perhaps, but what’s the replacement for him and will they be any better with their scheme in order to make the defense better??

I digress– the point is that the new narrative set out that scribes are talking to other players about what needs to be fixed with the team they cover is not only lazy, but unnecessary for the task at hand. You get into a player scrum or request to talk to a player for purpose, more often than not, when you’re writing about a topic. Sometimes you’re in a scrum for a tidbit that drops and make a story out of that– sure– but to ask them about the team their facing and what they need to do to win a championship like that player gives a good goddamn about any other team winning a championship.

However, it’s instant click-bait material and something that the rest of the Toronto media will eat up like Tiny Tim with the gruel because they need the hot takes to fill the hours of radio and TV they use to cover the Leafs to appease that fan-base.

Hell, maybe it’s time to talk about how the Bruins are being so dominant that the Leafs could actually make it past the first round because they won’t be in a position to face Boston right off the bat. Maybe actually press GM Kyle Dubas about Babcock’s future and what’s needed on the blue line to make the team more viable as a contender when push comes to shove. Maybe actually go against the MLSE overloads and have an opinion that doesn’t go with the grain and actually has some kind of meaning to it.

…nah, that’s too much work and would take too much character from Toronto writers to do. Yeah, just ask other– more successful– players about how to fix the Leafs and see how that works out in the long-run.

Make It Happen, NHL; You Cowards: Women’s Hockey Edition

Huge preface as I know nothing of the inner workings of the NHL or the NWHL, but I do have an idea what would turn casual women’s hockey fan to an appointment fan.

Beyond the Olympics and World Championships, you need to have some kind of league to display these great athletes in their field. I’ve said it before on a podcast and on this blog that the women never to do a year-long tour to major cities to get people to know these athletes more (check with the Dream Gap Tour) and then they need the NHL to be involved somehow in a league in order to take off.

Elliotte Friedman mentioned on Hockey Night in Canada that The Athletic’s Hailey Salvian transcribed with her emphasis being a big reason for this post. Salvian also pointed out that Katie Strang wrote something in May about a WNHL for The Athletic, but the Friedman stamp is one that shows there’s some progress to it.

“If the time ever becomes necessary” and “in case” are interesting buzz words. The fact there’s this secret contingency plan that the NHL is holding onto seems like something that shouldn’t be a contingency plan at all. They tout Hockey is for Everyone and tout this Female Hockey Advisory Committee, but still hasn’t pulled the trigger on this league under the NHL banner?? What are you waiting for, you cowards!?

There will be a blow-back because people inherently think the way the NHL runs things isn’t the most ideal– but if the independent entities for women’s pro hockey hasn’t been able to make it profitable yet, you need to have the NHL’s back behind it– if for nothing else but to build a better business structure to make the players profitable and the league a boom for professional sports. Then, once things get good and there’s some semblance of structure on the higher end of things; the NHL stops taking full reign and more and more independence of the NHL happens, though it has the marketing and media backing behind it.

All due respect, but the NWHL being on Twitch isn’t going to be something that casual people will surf to when they’re looked for “Fortnite” streams. That’s a place where people who have appointments for the games go to, but you get it on NBCSN or even the NHL Network– it’s a big bump in eyes to the programs. The inability to have an accessible television coverage of the games is the downfall of pro hockey for the female side of it. The main stream coverage is needed because what happens after the Olympics if people can’t readily find the feed on their television or streaming service?? They’ll lose interest and move along until the next four years roll around.

If the NHL wants to do it and FOR SOME UNGODLY REASON is just holding onto it until the vibe is right…there’s no better time than now to do something like this than now; hell, even two years ago was the right time to do this. As much respect as I have for the DIY attitude of the people running the women’s professional leagues– there’s a time where you need to have the establishment to help back you up and get you on your feet before you really start to run away with things.

Take the exposure, take the business structure, and run with it. Don’t let the NHL shuffle their feet more than it has on this and push them to get involved in creating a league that’ll be stable and will have more mainstream media exposure and create more people into regular fans rather than when it’s national competitions.

ITPST: October 24th, 2019

It’s the second edition of the gimmick that keeps on giving. Hey, we’re almost across the board with teams playing double-digits games– which means we’re getting closer to that sweet, sweet playoff push.

Keeping it in the East to start, the Buffalo Sabres’ hot start (8-1-1) have them at the top of the Atlantic Division. Right behind them are the Boston Bruins (6-1-2) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (5-4-2). Who can’t wait for another round of Bruins/Leafs in the first round?!? Yeah– I could wait for a good long while. In the Metro, the Caps (7-2-2) and John Carlson are on a big streak after a rough start, putting them atop the Metro. Carolina have a little bit of a stall after a torrid start (6-3-0), with the Penguins right after them (6-5-0). The Wild Card spots head to both Florida teams in the Lightning (5-3-1) and the Panthers (4-2-3).

Therefore it’ll be the Sabres vs. the Panthers, the Bruins take on the Leafs, the Caps will take on the Lightning, with the Hurricanes and Penguins going at it to round it out.

Out West, the Colorado Avalanche (7-1-1) are ripping it up and are atop the division, with the Predators (5-3-1) and Blues (4-2-3) rounding out the tough Central Division. Getting rid of Milan Lucic has helped the Edmonton Oilers (7-2-1) put themselves ahead in the Pacific, as the Golden Knights (7-4-0) and Canucks (6-3-0) round out the top three. The Wild Card spots will be headed to Anaheim (6-4-0) and the rejuvenated Coyotes (5-2-1).

And as we see it– the Avalanche will duel with the Coyotes in the relocation bowl, with the Blues and Predators being the other match-up, as the Oilers will take on the Ducks and the Golden Knights battle the Canucks.